Thursday, October 09, 2008

Holiness

I have neglected this blog over the past several weeks—which have stretched in to months. So I apologize to anyone who is still out there who might read it. (Even if it just pops up on your reader).

I enjoy blogging, but have been without a computer for several months now, so I only have access at work or if I go to the library or some other public place. However, I do want to start being more intentional with posting to this blog.

In the previous post, I wrote about the idea of purity. Now, I would like to present some contrasting thoughts on holiness.

One might argue that these two words are synonymous and that this is merely an exercise of semantics. I would like to point out the simple distinction—as I see it—that purity is what we think of ourselves or how others think of us; whereas holiness, to me, is a condition of the heart and mind.

Holiness speaks to character—the who that we are. Purity speaks to culture—the what (or image) that we or others see.

Why is this distinction of fundamental importance? Essentially, the answer is because holiness is what God sees when He looks at us. The Scripture tells us that man looks on the outward (purity) image, but God sees our heart (holiness) condition.

In Scripture we’re also instructed to “be Holy” as our Father in Heaven is holy. At first, I think a lot of Christians just skim over that commandment because we all know that we can’t be like God. Doesn’t Romans say that we’ve all “fallen short”?

And so we castigate ourselves each time we stumble, while at the same time excusing ourselves for missing the mark that we see as unattainable.

But I believe God’s call to holiness is a plea for our heart. By instructing us to be holy, He is saying, “be like me.” Even earthly parents delight when their children grow up to be like them.

God is saying, “I want you to have a heart like I have.” God’s heart of holiness consists of so much more than a set of rules we adhere to or a series of ethical codes by which we live our lives. God’s heart is infinitely lovely, just, pure, true, kind, considerate, compassionate and good.

So perhaps instead of taking purity pledges, we should determine to seek after the heart of God. Perhaps we should seek to be good rather than to be right. (And I have a feeling that when we seek after God’s heart and become like him, the other issues will fall in to line perfectly and without guilt or shame).

The Problem with Purity

When I was growing up in Middle America in the 80s and 90s, the popular topic for every church youth group was purity. We had purity rallies where we made purity promises sealed with purity rings (or necklaces or other “purity” paraphernalia).

Although I understand the intent, in some ways, it seems to ensure that we stayed focused on the superficial…the topics—as it were—and not the real issues. Maybe that’s how the devil wants it.

You see, if we focus on purity, we become self-absorbed. We constantly focus on what behaviors (physical or psychological) make us pure or impure and we stay caught up in the pursuit of this state of purity.

The other night I heard Dr. Phil say something that stuck with me. He was advising a couple on the brink of divorce

He said, “We often argue about the topics—such as who left the dirty laundry out, or whose turn it is to pick up the kids when we should really be discussing the issues—trust, love and integrity.”
What is true for romantic relationships is true for us as Christians. When it comes to morality, we often talk a lot about the topics (purity) and not about the real issue (holiness).

Our “purity” becomes a spiritual badge of honor that we proudly display to everyone around us. It is a ruler by which we measure the shortcomings of others. In the worse case, it becomes the switch by which we self-castigate.

Whether our sense of purity leads to arrogance (i.e. “I’m better than you”) or to false humility (i.e. shame—“I’ll never measure up”) it is equally destructive.

Our obsession often leads to arrogance and a critical spirit. But it seems that more Christians suffer from the sense of shame and self-loathing that is brought on by not being pure enough.

As new Christians, we are taught that all of us “fall short” of God’s glory. No matter what we do, we will never measure up. There is this inherent sense of failure built in to our salvation, regardless of how hard we try to live purely

But Christ desires our freedom. We are set free from “the curse of the law.” When He frees us, the Word declares that we are “free indeed” (or free for sure!). What did Christ say about why He came? “I have come that you might have abundant life.”

God’s Word does speak of our shortcomings. Christ himself said, “I’ve come to call sinners to repentance.” However, our lives should not be governed by the pursuit of the unattainable and selfish state of purity, but rather, we should live holy lives. Christ calls us to holiness…and that is a different matter altogether.

It is a call to freedom. It then becomes not about what we do, but about who we are.

Blessing of Inconvenience

Sometimes inconveniences are really a blessing.

Last week, I was in line at Burger King waiting for my lunch. It wasn't terribly busy, as I take my lunch later in the day. The noon rush was over.

I waited patiently, but I only have a 1/2 hour lunch break, so as the time dragged on, I was a bit concerned.

Finally, the employee at the counter told the manager that I'd been waiting nearly ten minutes for my sandwich. The manager turned to the ladies in back (who'd been just standing there -- in plain sight of the customers -- chatting up a storm). Within moments, I had my sandwich.

On the way out, the counter employee asked if I wanted a Hershey pie to take on my way.

I quickly accepted. As I left the restaurant the idea of inconvenience being a blessing came to mind and I realized that there are all sorts of "inconveniences" in my life that are actually blessings.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Answers and The Uncertainty of Doubt

What happens when you get what you want?

For me, a sense of boredom always seems to set in. I soon find myself looking for the next best thing—whether it be professional or personal.

We spend so much time searching, looking here and there, yearning for what our heart desires. But what happens when the yearning is over? What happens when you find that you have found what you are searching for?

For me this happened when I quit searching. But it wasn’t a conscious thing. It was a process and a decision made as I grew and matured emotionally. I didn’t realize that it was happening at the time.

As soon as I quit grasping, what I was looking for appeared before my eyes. Now, I am experiencing the uncertainty of doubt. I am mildly cynical perhaps. I ask myself, “Is this really what I’m looking for?”

I am still surprised every time that the answer comes back to me.

Yes, it is!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Desire (Not the Streetcar)

The heart’s desire. What is it that my heart truly desires?

All of my life, there has been a sense of “not enough”. A desire for more. And I often wondered if this yearning would ever be satiated. Would the feeling of lack ever be assuaged? Would the feeling that there is something still to be achieved ever be filled?

I had become gripped by this sense of incompleteness until it became normal.

And then last week, I had a eureka moment! I suddenly saw my desire as a gift from the hand of God.

Scripture says that He gives us the “desire of our hearts”. And I had often recognized Him as the source of my desires. But I had always equated my desires with my ambitions.

Last week I recognized the gift of the desire itself. The desire to achieve a goal—the ambition, the drive—is the gift. The motivation to achieve comes from the hand of God.

When we surrender to His direction with childlike trust, we are able to walk in faith, and fear is abolished. When we trust, we surrender and beauty begins to fill our lives. Happiness fills our days and contentment in the midst of uncertainty comforts and guides us.

(This post has not gone in the direction I had planned, but I think there’s some good here, so I’ll post again in a subsequent post more along the lines of what I’d originally intended)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Love of God

I have accidentally fallen in love with Jesus Christ. Yet, the more I know about him, the less I feel like a "Christian".



This quote from Otrolado's latest post struck a chord with me. So succinct, yet so telling. When I look into Christ's face, I see in His eyes my own hipocracies and short-comings. Yet I do not see judgement or condemnation. Instead I find love. What amazing grace this is!

And it is in that love that I am healed and restored. And it is that love that I extend then to other people. And I am reminded that "nothing...shall separate us from the love of God."

Friday, July 18, 2008

The "Right One"

(I apologize in advance for the philosophical tone of this post...unless you enjoy philosophy. Then I hope you enjoy.)

How do you know if someone’s the “right one”?

Is it all luck? Is it some cosmic mix of luck, intervention by Providence and hard work? Or do you just “make it work” in whatever situation or relationship you find yourself?

Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking these questions at all. Maybe we should be active in living the answers. Maybe.

I struggle to free myself from the tendency to jump into the “what ifs” and questions that lead to uncertainty and greater questioning.

The questions that we ask so often arise from our mind’s need to control our situations and circumstances. But control is something we feel, not something that is real. In reality, we have no control, but we do not want to admit this fact.

Instead, we create questions and formulas and protocols for finding the “right one.” The “right one” just is. In fact, all of life just is. There is no magic formula. There is no luck. There is. That’s all.

All that remains is acceptance.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Expectations, Assumptions and Communication

We are all so different. I know this is stating the obvious, but I was struck again last night with how distinctly different we all are as human beings. We think differently, process differently and communicate differently.

And the weird part is that I can't imagine being any different than I am. So it's hard to understand where another person is really coming from.

To throw more difficulty into the process, our minds create expectations and then assumptions based on our experiences. These often become roadblocks that blind us from objectivity.

So how can I break the power of my own assumptions and expectations? Well, I suppose the main way would be not to create them in the first place. That is an ongoing reconditioning, though. First, I have to be aware of when I have made the assumptions or expectations.

Awareness, for me, starts with listening. Awareness comes from truly hearing what is being said...in all forms of communication. But listening is not enough. I have to combine listening with a willingness to lay down my defenses and barriers. And that's the hardest part--to listen without formulating a counter or opposing point of view.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Here We Go Again...

What a difference a week makes! I just re-read the previous post entitled What is Love?

With that post, I feel like I may have jumped into the deep end of the pool. It's almost humorous. It is as if God is saying, "That's all great philosophy...but now let's see how you put it into practice!"

You see, I've been on a dating haitus. I decided I'm not going to get involved with anyone. I'm going to focus my energy on Christ and my relationship with Him. I also decided to focus my energy on really determining what it is that I want in my life as far as a partner is concerned.

Now for the context.

Last monday, a member of a forum I frequent contacted me. The other member lives in my city and we happened to be in the same part of town...actually about two blocks away, so I walked down the street and we met each other in person.

I wasn't thinking a thing. (Remember, dating was not in my "plan"?) So we chatted. We both grew up in the same denomination and so we shared our stories. And when the invitation to meet again later for dinner came, I went along without much of a thought. (I know...I'm a bit naive!)

Well...long story short, we've really kicked it off and have spent some time together over the last week. So what's wrong? Nothing...yet. I'm a bit cynical. I'm waiting for the shoe to drop.

The question that I'm faced with now is "what do we do now?" As I stated before, this was not part of my plan. I realize that the more I try not to fall, the harder I do. What's up with that?

So, what do I do now? I guess I go forward one moment at a time and take the time necessary to really get to know this person who seems to be so "perfect" now.

But there's part of me that seizes up and thinks, here we go again.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What is Love?

Along with learning to live well, learning to love is one of my primary goals.

But what is love? I've been asking this question for a few months since the dissolution of my last relationship. What is it that I really want?

Everyone is searching for love, yet we seem to know instinctively that it's really inside us. Still we seek for it everywhere. Will I know it when I find it? We wonder. Have I known true love in my life or is what I'm seeking even out there?

I've known my share of infatuations. I've felt in love. But I wonder if I've ever truly loved.

All of these uncertainties and questions cloud my view of what is or is not reality. Yet I know that for me, the major objective of my life is to love. And the more I tune in to what I instinctively know about love, the more I fight off the wolves of my own fear regarding this unknown wilderness.

It's the "...but what if...?" questions that get me.

True love is ever-expanding and unlimited. But what if no one returns my love?

Love is not a feeling or emotion it is a way of being. But what if I never feel loved?

Love is complete surrender. But what if someone takes advantage?

Love is absolute trust. But what if someone betrays that trust?

Love is defenseless and unconditional. But what if it is never returned?

Love is knowing all the questions and choosign to love anyway.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Living Well

One of my primary goals is to learn to live well.

Learning to live is a process. The only way to learn to live is to go through it. But to expand beyond existence to living--and living well--is a true challenge that requires focus and discipline.

My hope is that soon, the focus and discipline will create habits of what, at this point, seems unnatural and soon I will find myself living well, naturally.

At first, it seems like all work, but then there are small victories where I realize that I'm fulfilling my objective--through the process--and that I am living a well life.

It's then that I realize that I'm also experiencing happiness, joy and peace...and they all seem to be the byproducts of the effort I have exerted to learn how to live a well-lived life.

I find that living well is a daily--even momentary--choice. But it is worth the effort and the rewards are eternal.




Thursday, June 19, 2008

Control vs. Direction

I started this set of posts on the mind and thoughts talking about how to control our thoughts;

I close it by dashing all hope. The mind is uncontrollable.

The more you try to control the mind, the more you focus your energy and time in the direction that your thoughts are focused.

If you are trying not to think about a certain subject, the effort of struggling against those thoughts ensures that you will focus exactly where you do not want to. This often leads us to feel despondent and depressed.

At the beginning, I said that there is no hope of controlling your mind or thoughts and this is true. There is hope however of directing your thoughts.

You are like the air controller holding the flashlights before the nose a giant 747. There is nothing in your power you can do to stop the advancement of the plane. If you struggle against it, you will be run over and crushed.

You can direct it, however. You have the power to use your emotions like signals and focus your thoughts to direct the power of your mind in the direction in which you would like to go.

So I have found that my thoughts have great power. They create or destroy but they are not me. And your thoughts are not you. They are just patterns and habits that can be changed and refocused.
And this is encouraging. It is true power--if we have the discipline and energy to use it. The key is focus, focus, focus.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Focused Thought Drives Emotion

Why is it that we seek distraction from our emotions? We easily dole out advice such as "just don't think about it." When someone's down, we try to "get them out of the house." Instinct tells us that what we think about makes us feel a certain way.

Emotions are our greatest assistants, though, when it comes to the affairs of the mind. Our emotions are red flags that signal us when things are out of balance. Our emotions help us to become aware of where our mind is focused.
Why is awareness of our mind so important? The mind wanders. It is nearly impossible to hedge in the wanderings of the mind. It moves too quickly and in too many directions.

It is important to be aware of where our mind is focused though, because our focus determines the direction of our life. When our mind is unfocused, we are drifting and disorganized. This lack of focus leads to feelings of stress, frustration and helplessness (which are all red flags to let us know that we need to focus).

The key is this: you have the choice. Pay attention to your emotions, and be willing to feel them. Don't become frustrated with them. Instead, ask the question: what am I thinking and where is my focus?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Great Prayer

Keep us, O God, from pettiness; let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.

Let us be done with faultfinding and leave off self-seeking.

May we put away all pretenses and meet each other, face to face, without self-pity and without prejudice.

May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous.

Let us take time for all things; make us to grow calm, serene, gentle.

Teach us to put in action our better impulses-straightforward and unafraid.

Grant that we may realize it is the little things of life that create difficulties; that in the big things of life we are as one.

Oh, Lord, let us not forget to be kind.Amen. - Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Think on These Things"

Yeah, right!
I know what you're thinking. Easier said than done. Right?

So many of us "struggle" with our thoughts (or at least we talk about struggling with them). And St. Paul gives us very clear instructions in the Scriptures: Whatever things are true, honest, just, pure and lovely...think on these things.

The truth is, most of us don't and that's just how it is.

We tend to focus on the subject of the mind/thought struggle in the area of sex and sexuality. We talk about things like fantasizing.

So how do we control this "monster" of the mind?

There are some simple principles that will help you control your thought patterns if you understand some basic principles about how your mind works. I use these tools all the time and hope they'll be a help.

I'm going to use the next few posts to discuss some of these principles.

Don't Struggle!
You're probably thinking, what are you talking about--don't struggle?

The truth is you will never win when you are fighting your mind. It is a wonderful creation and the Scripture tells us that even we cannot know our own minds (heart).

If you struggle against whatever you're currently focused on, it will only magnify that thought in the reality of your own mind.

Whatever emotions are created from the thoughts you are thinking will only intensify. If you're experiencing frustration, your frustration will increase. If you're experiencing anger, stress or uncertainty, then they will only increase as you focus on them. (The same works for positive emotions, if you're saavy enough to notice and make use of the amazing mind you possess).

And this leads us right to the second principle: focused thought drives your emotions.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Fear of Questioning Everything

The path to holiness lies through questioning everything.

I didn't really struggle much with my sexuality prior to coming out to myself. I was so far in the back of the closet, I think I remember visiting one afternoon with a faun named Tumnus. Basically, I was in another world, psychologically, and that probably preserved my sanity growing up.

I never allowed myself to much consider the feelings and thoughts of my own heart and what it really meant to who I was as a person.

After coming out to myself, I reconciled my faith and sexuality fairly seamlessly in a matter of two or three months. There was about a 20-something year prep period for that sudden realization, however.

One of the things I have struggled a bit with is challenging and questioning everything I believe.

Over the last weeks, I have been reading M. Scott Peck's classic, The Road Less Traveled. Toward the end of the book, the author makes this insightful observation.



The road to spiritual growth, however, lies in...distrusting what we already
believe, by actively seeking the threatening and unfamiliar, by deliberately
challenging the validity of what we have previously been taught and hold dear.



As I mentioned in the previous post, many of us struggle with this process because in normal religious training, we're often discouraged from questioning authority.

Think about this, though. God does not need you to protect Him from your own questioning. Truth is never threatened. Men and the power with which they influence others is threatened.

In fact, God seems welcoming of our questions and uncertainties. Try me. Test me. Prove me. This is His plea--over and over again. Why?

God yearns for you and you alone. He does not need to manipulate you. He loves you.

Free will. The sincerest test of true love, and the most benificent gift of grace.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Only Believe

When I first realized that I had been dangerously hood-winked by my society, church, family and spiritual leaders regarding my own sexuality, I determined to really consider closely some beliefs and behaviors that I'd easily taken for granted before. As I began to question my beliefs and all I'd been taught, fear started to seep in.

What if I'm wrong?

Are they really right, and I've missed the boat?

Had God given up on me and turned me over to the dreaded "reprobate mind"?

Am I purposely deceiving myself so I can do whatever I want? (I don't think I am...I mean, I really don't want to fool myself. I really want to know the truth.)

Over and over again, those fears and second-guessings sat themselves down on my shoulders and whispered fear in my ears. Again and again, they brought to mind scriptures that I knew well --and that had at one time been a comfort and stability to me--and castigated me with them.

I was going crazy. I had to know the truth. My restoration began in the form of a simple, four-word prayer: Lord, show me truth.

And He did. As I prayed this prayer over and over, with a pure heart, He opened my understanding and spoke peace to my heart. The enemy still challenged me, questioning every sweet assurance that my Father whispered to me.

But I chose to believe. I was practicing a biblical principle at the time, I just didn't realize it. Ask with faith...and do not waver (that's my paraphrase).

What's my point? God can show us truth. His Holy Spirit can confirm it to our hearts, but we are responsible to believe.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

"And You Invited Me In"

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me
a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into
your home. Matthew25:35

I recently finished reading And You Invited Me In by Cheryl Moss Tyler. This is Ms. Tyler's first novel and it tells the story of Annie and her family as they are faced with imminent death of her brother Alex, who has contracted the AIDS virus.

There is a struggle between Annie's desire to follow the leading of God's Holy Spirit to show mercy and kindness to Alex and his partner, Scott during the last few months of Alex's life, and the social pressure and ostracism from friends in their small town and at church.

As I first started this book, I found myself looking for something that would really connect me to the main characters of the story. There are a lot of sub-plots and often abrupt and seemingly disconnected revelations. I didn't connect to the central plot.

But as the story came to an end, I found myself much more invested than I realized at first. It was as if these characters and their struggle sneaked into my heart and I was there in the room with them.

It is a timely story, and one that anyone with an evangelical or conservative Christian background will no doubt relate to.

Friday, June 06, 2008

What is Love?

What is love? How do I know it?

I know in my own life, what I have experienced as love in a myriad of relationships has been almost universally mis-identified and misunderstood.

In the section on Love in his book The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck defines love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."

Later he contends that "true love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed."

(Love) is a committed, thoughtful decision.

He continues: "The common tendency to confuse love with the feeling of love allows people all manner of self-deception."

This truth hit me like a sledge hammer. Nearly all the drama in my relationships has been caused by my confusion of "the feeling of love" with love itself. I still am not sure of all the implications of this new understanding, but I am spending some time really thinking about this.

All kinds of questions pop up about the importance of "chemistry" and the "feelings" and "emotions" that make up our modern concept of love. I am growing as I develop my own understanding of love and from that understanding, choose what experience I want for my life.

What is love? Perhaps the poet says it best. Love is a many-splendored thing.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Decision-Making

I have been reading a psychology classic, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. There is a lot to absorb, but I came across a powerful concept the other day in the section of the book on discipline.

The author discusses decision making and the challenge of making effective decisions.

Decisions affecting the lives of others must always be made. The best decision-makers are those who are willing to suffer the most over their decisions but still retain their ability to be decisive.

The toughest decisions are made when you can clearly see and understand the impact of the decision on your own life and the lives of others.

This is a skill that, admittedly, I have not developed as I should have. But it is a skill that I am learning and refining. I am learning to exercise the courage to make the decisions I know to be right in light of the personal suffering that may follow.

Friday, May 30, 2008

"A Time for Every Purpose"

A friend called last night and asked me about dating. HA!

Since when have I become a resource on the subject of dating? (Last year, an important relationship of mine ended badly; a few months ago my most resent relationship ended and now I'm single)

"It's so hard...there's so much drama," he complained.

That is true. Involving someone in your life does create a certain set of added complications. However most of us don't take time when we face obstacles. Almost anything we attempt to do in life can be accomplished through taking the proper time.

If we fail, it is often because we did not take the time to educate ourselves properly. If we do not succeed, it may be because we have not taken the proper time to collect sufficient resources. If we still struggle, it is often because we have not taken the time and energy to prepare ourselves, physically, mentally or emotionally for the endeavor.

Time is essential to the success of any task.

Dating is no different. And so, for me, this means taking the time to be single. Grrrrrr! I hate being single. And yet, I want a successful and healthy relationship in the future, so I am determined to take the present moment to prepare for that eventuality.

It is not just spending the time that allows us to be successful. Investing time is how we create the proper return in our lives. And the #1 rule of investing is discipline. Discipline means a focused, clear and determined application of energy toward the attainment of a worthwhile goal.

During my time of singleness, this means focusing clearly on my relationship with Christ and really articulating what it is that I hope to see happen as I grow closer to Him. It also means using my time wisely to go to the dark places.

Do you have "dark places" in your life? These are the old emotional wounds, the deep hurts and past failings that haunt our present. I have them. I have tried to avoid them. I have suppressed them. And I have run away from them.

But problems don't go away. My refusing to accept responsibility for my "ghosts" does not make them any less real.

If the relationship must be gotten over, then it must be me who takes the time to get over it.

If the degree must be completed, then it must be me who completes it.

If the debt must be paid off, then it must be me who pays it.

There is no "short-cut." There is no easy out. It is discipline and determination.

And if there is a prize to be won in a healthy and fulfilling relationship, it must be me who trains arduously through this season of singleness for the day of glory and the gold medal of commitment placed around my neck.

Silence--the Voice of Peace

Shhhh....

Silence. Where do you go to experience it?

To me, silence is as the evasive happiness...the more you seek it and strive for it the less likely you are to find it. When you think about it, silence is only known by the sounds that interrupt it.

Yet silence is the language that speaks peace.

I live near a large art museum and it has large gardens and sculpture gardens on the grounds. Often, I will go there in the evenings to pray and to read.

Last night, I sat next to a fountain and closed my eyes in prayer and meditation. I focused on the sounds...each individual tone that made up the music of the trickling water. But then I tried something else, I consciously tried to listen to the the silence within the trickling water fountain.

Peace.

It filled my spirit. Gratitude soon followed and overflowed my soul. And Love seemed to sit beside me as I sat there.

Silence, Peace, Gratitude and Love--happy companions for a wonderful life.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Meandering Mind...Meandering Life

Ok, so I have to admit I'm a bit slow on the uptake with this one!

The title principle should be obvious--and it is. But for me, the application of this principle is about discipline and determination.

I read once that when your mind is cluttered, your space becomes cluttered. To an extent, I have noticed that the more chaos there is in my life, emotionally or physically, the more chaos there is in my space.

A sure way to clean up your space, is to organize your mind. That's an aside, though.

******

My life has not been a comedy of errors, but a comedy serendipitous opportunities leading to everywhere--and nowhere.

Have you ever felt like you've been a lot of places but never yet arrived at any one place?

That is the feeling in my life right now. And at the age of thirty-mumble, mumble, this feeling has bred a certain amount of discontent.

I notice it most when others make comments or ask questions that seem to come from a place of disapproval. But that's the thing. I don't want their life. I want a fantastic and exciting life. I don't want the life that everyone else leads.

Yet the dreams I have are blurred and so life keeps meandering. And the strong pull of what is the "right/responsible/grownup" way to live draws me back and forth like the knot in the center of a tug-o-war rope.

And so my life resembles the path of a staggering drunk at times.

******

But what if I can set aside the critics' input, dig deep down into my own deepest soul, and focus my energy, creativity and effort in a way that most satisfies me? What would that life look like? I have a feeling that's exactly the life I want to lead--exactly what I want my life to look like.

Step One: Focus

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Sacred Sanctuary of Loneliness

Learning to live with loneliness. Ok, I'm better than I was last night. I just had to make those two "vent" posts to get things off my chest. I'm an extrovert, and so sometimes I process things by expressing them through words.

When I settled down a bit, I realized some valuable things.

1. I do have great friends in my life.

2. I am in the right place in my life.

3. I can take action to change things in my life.

and most importantly...

4. I have a great God.

******

It's tough to experience the loneliness. But I absolutely believe that I need this time. When I'm involved in a relationship, I'm not able to be as objective. And for me--and I suspect, most others--relationships take alot of emotional energy.

I need time to mature emotionally. As I've expressed through other posts, I want to come to a relationship and be able to share my life. I don't want to come needing the person I'm in a relationship with to "fix" me, emotionally or otherwise.

I also realize that during this time of loneliness, I am acutely aware of God's presence. This is how I should live every day--conscious of Him. It is in this sanctuary of fear, loneliness and frustration that I experience His grace and mercy and love.

And from my sacred sanctuary comes an overwhelming, all-encompassing peace from the hand of God.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chicken or the Egg

I don't know if the loneliness I blogged about earlier is a result of frustration, or if the frustration is a result of the loneliness. It's a bit like the question of which came first--the chicken or the egg.

I realized a few days ago that a year ago this week, my first significant relationship ended. With the naiveté of a teen-aged lover, I bought into the fantasy that "it" would last forever.

And because I have been unable to let go of that fantasy, I have suffered. What ticks me off more than anything is that I want to let go of the fantasy.

Fantasy-schmantacy!
My cynic emerges from the ashes of my fantasy land. But instead of a beautiful phoenix all I have is this vulture that circles high above my dying life of dreams, hopes and desires.

And I am frustrated because I can't let my lover go. I've "moved on" but the presence of the loved one's influence is still there. It's still there because I still care. I still love. Human beings weren't made to turn love on and off.

I want to feel the same indifference that my lover apparently felt toward me. I want to understand. I want to have relief. And I probably won't, and as much as I want to "let go and let God," I realize the bitter irony of the cliché as it cuts through my own life experience.

When will this end? Why isn't a year long enough to get over a six month puppy love? Why? Why? Why?

Why am I so messed up?

Leona Lewis sings "I'm gonna smile because I deserve to...It'll be better in time"

But sometimes, my smiley-muscles ache.

Loneliness

Bleh!

Sometimes life is just like that.

This post might (most likely will) meander a bit since my mind is a bit unfocused and "bleh".

The past few weeks have been a struggle, honestly. Off and on, I've just been attacked by loneliness. I know you all can probably commiserate.

The key (they say) is to not resist what is, and to allow it to be. Bull-honkey!

Ok, so "they" are probably right, but how can I not resist the loneliness? Doesn't "not resisting" become the act of resisting the resistance? (Sounds circular to me). And that's how it feels---my mind, emotions and personal will in a giant toilet bowl swirling toward the inevitable whoosh through the drain and into the sewer of life.

Ok, so I'm being a bit melodramatic and perhaps a bit drama queen-ish. None of this takes away from the reality of the intensity of the deep feeling of loneliness. It really is like a dementor (if you've read Harry Potter) sucking the life and energy from my soul.

I know what it is. I know what it's doing. Yet I feel powerless to stop it from siphoning the life from me. All the while I'm conscious that I am not powerless and should be able to change the feelings I have. And that makes me even more frustrated.

So...am I just crazy?

No. I'm human. And I guess I'm ok with that. I'm ok.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

K.S.A.S: Knight in Shining Armour Syndrome

This is something I've suffered with often, and I expect that many of us are similarly afflicted. The Knight in Shining Armour Syndrome is a condition that many human beings suffer with at one point or another throughout their lives.

It is predicated by the belief (or strong desire) that the knight in shining armour will show up on a white horse and save the day by rescuing me. I have played this game of delusion most of my life. I don't know why, but it seems like there is something in each of us that drives us to hope in and look for someone to fix us or fulfill us. Yet we know that this is unhealthy and doesn't work. But still, we hope that he (or she) will show up and fix it all.

But I'm learning something that is changing me a little at a time. As I am learning to listen to my own intuition, I'm learning the satisfaction that comes from rescuing myself. This concept is so simple, and brings so much happiness and personal fulfillment, but sometimes the KSAS still kicks in and I look outside myself to find a rescuer.

Every decision that I've made from that place of looking for a rescuer has caused me additional grief and drama. I don't need that!

Friday, May 16, 2008

You Are Not Alone!

I can't count the number of times that other gay Christians have said to me, "I thought I was totally alone," or "I thought about killing myself because I thought I was the only one."

If you are on this journey of reconciling your faith with your sexuality, or if you are just starting to face the questions that are crowding in around you, I want to tell you this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

There are hundreds of thousands of others like you all over the world. I have friends from all continents: North and South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia. And they all have something in common--they are gay and they are Christian.

As you journey this path toward authenticity, insecurity and uncertainty will be your companions. However, you will also begin to hear the counsel of a different voice--a voice that may not be very strong at first, for it is your own.

When I first started to pay conscious attention to my own wisdom and my own voice, I could not follow its leading, because I had suppressed and repressed its influence so severely. As I have grown, I am learning to listen to the voice of my intuition. I am finding it to be a faithful and trustworthy guide.

As I began to build my life with integrity and authenticity, I found my own guiding voice--the voice of God's Spirit within me--magnified. And I have become courageous--courageous to listen to and follow that guidance even when it seemed to contradict what others wanted me to do.

Courage is hearing your voice and following your intuition.

Emotional Scratching Posts

I am finally reading the bestselling Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Ms. Gilbert chronicles the year she took to travel to Italy, India and Indonesia in search of pleasure, prayer and the balance between the two.

The book is enchanting on many levels. I'm part-way through it and already have found things that have dramatically influenced my perspective of life and how I experience it. There is one statement regarding learning to live with loneliness that I read today that profoundly impacted me.

So be lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with i, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.

I think the reason that this resonated with me is that I have felt the same. In the past, I have expected others to fulfill me. Relationships are my comfort zone. As I've said before on previous posts, I want a successful, life-long relationship.

However, I am learning that in order to have the relationship that I desire, I have to learn to stand on my own. I have to learn to experience loneliness and not run from it; but embrace it as a friend and allow it to stay or go without needing someone or something to pacify me or distract me in its presence.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dykes and Dikes

I just finished the most enchanting book. It's called Lottery and is by Patricia Wood. It was inspired by her father winning the Washington State Lottery. Lottery tells the story of Perry, a developmentally disabled man who wins the lottery.

The characterization is precious and the story is engaging. I have not read a story in years that entertained me, challenged me and pleased me as this one did. From start to finish, it is a gem.

Why am I writing about a novel on this blog, though?

Midway through the book, I read something that made me laugh out loud. In it, a reporter comes to interview Perry and his friend, Keith.

I whisper to Keith, "A TV star. Cool."

Keith looks disappointed and whispers back, "A dyke, Per! Just my luck!"

A dike is both something to keep back water and a girl who likes other girls instead of boys. That is interesting, I think. A dam is strong and holds back water. Maybe that is why girls who like girls are called dikes. They must be strong.

Maybe.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Uneasy Ceasefire

In the previous post, I wrote about being at peace with singleness....for now. It's more like an uneasy ceasefire. In my better times, I dream. I dream of what life can be. I dream of who I can be. I dream of sharing it all with a partner. I dream of perfection--not that either of us is perfect--but that the relationship we share fills and fulfills us. I dream.

And then in the darker times, I fear. I fear that I will never experience the life I dream of. I fear that I won't know the joy and love that I dream of. I fear that I will never be the person I know I can be. I fear that I will never share life with the partner I have dreamed of.

I want to live from my dreams. I want to let my fears slowly dissolve away and let the sun rise on my dreams and show me the life that I have imagined laid out before me. I dream and I fear. But more than both, I hope.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Solitary Confinement

The other evening, I was in the grocery store after work. As I roamed through the aisles, I saw several gay couples shopping together. And it just hit me--I want that. I was suddenly very aware of my singleness. Now I'm not complaining, because it is the choice I made for this time in my life. But I was still very acutely aware of the sense of "aloneness" at that moment.

But a neat thing happened almost as suddenly. The feeling of being single did not dissipate. It was still there, but I became aware of my control of the situation. I wanted to be in a relationship so badly. I realized how much I want a life-long committed relationship to be my life, and at the same time, I realized that now was not the right timing for me.

But I experienced hope in that moment. Hope for what the future can and will be. And that is exciting. It is encouraging because I've been doing alot of soul-searching recently. I've been thinking alot about what I want in my life and what I want my life to look like.

And I admit, part of me was afraid that I couldn't commit and that what I truly wanted, I could never be stable enough to have. But at the store, in that moment, I experienced a sense of peace that what I truly desire, I will one day have. Just not today. Someday I will be prepared to enter a fulfilling and healthy relationship. Until the time that I am ready and able to make that commitment, I remain in a sort of solitary confinement and dream for the day when I will walk out into freedom.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Deeper "Yes"

Decision making. How do you decide between two really good choices? Then after you decide, how do you say "no" to one and "yes" to the other?

This has always been difficult for me. I like variety. I am creative, and I enjoy the stimulation that different situations and people bring into my life. However, this has caused a tendency toward a lack of self-discipline. I have been known to kinda "jump around" from project to project. And I lack the self-confidence sometimes to stick with my decisions. I'm fearful, to be honest.

I read something today that really gave me some perspective. It was a quote from Matthew Kelly's book, The Rhythm of Life. In it, the author makes the following statement.

The only way to say no to anything is to have a deeper yes.

It takes alot of chutzpah, though, and guts too, to have the confidence in my own decision-making process and my own desires to be able to say "no" emphatically and effectively.

One of the keys is to know who to listen to. I am learning that I have lots of great friends that I can ask for advice, but I'm also learning who I can bring issues to in order to get a balance and focused opinion.

Another thing that I read in The Rhythm of Life is that "it is easy to share too much with the wrong person and too little with the right person." Knowing the difference is a skill that I am hoping to hone.

So the key for me really is found in the deeper yes. I think any dilemma in life can be clarified by asking "what is the deeper yes?" or "is this the deeper yes?"

Saturday, May 03, 2008

That Terrifying Truth

I was talking with a friend this week and I asked him how he was doing. He said that he was unable to relax. He expressed alot of anxiety or uncertainty. I can certainly identify. I think that we all can.

But as we were talking he used an adjective that I found interesting. Terrifying.

I have also become familiar with this word--specifically as it relates to living a life of authenticity and truthfulness. Why?

When you've lived so long--ten, twenty, thirty or more years--without ever being completely honest or when you've lived behind a maze of mirages and carefully constructed facades, then authenticity truly can be terrifying.

Intimacy--allowing yourself to be known--is scary. This is a challenge for all people, but it is an especially uncertain experience for those just experiencing it for the first time.

In the Fellowship of the Rings, the first movie of the trilogy, the hobbits are making their way on the journey when they suddenly stop. It hits them what a momentous task has been handed them. One of them makes a statement that has stuck with me.

He says, "when I take another step, it will be the furthest that I've ever gone."

Like any new experience, honesty is a process. Engage in it step by step. As you do, the old smoke and mirror illusions will collapse faster and faster. This is scary, but continue on. The rewards are well worth the loss--which is the true fallacy. There is no loss, only truth. It is just the sense of loss of a false self that terrifies us.

And then all of a sudden, on your journey, you'll realize, "when I take another step, it will be the furthest I've ever gone."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The God Box

Recently, a friend recommended a great little book called The God Box by Alex Sanchez. Alex is an author who writes gay-themed stories of teens and their journey. Although the target market of his books is the teen population, The God Box is an excellent book that will resonate with my readers as well.

It is not a classic literary achievement and isn't meant to be. Instead, it is a great little tome that caused my spirit to call out, "Yes!" It was spot-on in recording the feelings and struggles experienced by Paul, a Christian teen living in a small Texas town. (I could relate, having grown up in an evangelistic, conservative Baptist church in the heartland of America)

Everything's perfect. He has the Christian girlfriend and group of friends. He has the vibrant mega-church with the perfect pastor and he even has the perfect salvation story. But all of that matters little when Manuel moves to town. He's also a Christian. But he has none of the "perfect" trappings of Paul's life; rather, he is confident, gay, loving and filled with God's Spirit.

Paul is drawn to and at the same time driven away by Manuel. There is this need to understand how Manuel can be so centered and sure when Paul's own spirit is so mixed up and fearful.
There were times when reading it that I laughed out loud. There were others that I cried. Like this excerpt when Paul comes out to his beloved grandmother.

"Um there's something I want to tell you." She cocked her head and peered at me. "I'm in love...with Manuel."

She reached out with her frail arms and hugged me. "Mi amor, I'm so happy for you." Then with her finger she gently poked at my heart. "Now let yourself be happy too."

She kissed my cheek. And as she waddled away, I had this odd thought, about how Manuel sometimes called God "she."

Maybe he was right.

(Previously, Manuel had challenging Paul's views of God identified with only male pronouns.)

This book can teach us all something...gay, straight and Christian. The greatest thing that I will take away from this sweet little story is that I can be fuller me. I can express my position as a child of God and as the person He created me to be--without guilt and without reservation or fear. And perhaps in doing so, I will inspire others to step beyond their fears and the stereotypes they harbor and drive them into the arms of Jesus.

Like so many of us, Paul begs God for answers. Why? Why did you make me this way? And all the time he finds that he's been asking the wrong questions. God is sweetly and lovingly drawing him to the truth.

My mind struggled to absorb (it). Had I actually been resisting God's love all these years by not accepting who I was? Could I also be content to accept that the Lord might not want to change me, or he would have done so by now? Could I admit that it might possibly be the Lord's will for me to love and accept myself as...gay? Or would I spend the rest of my life fighting who I was, feeling sorry for myself, and being angry at God about it?


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Exodus Parody

So-called "ex-gay" therapies and groups have caused so much damage to my friends and those I love. It is sad that the need to be "right"eous has spawned an entire industry bent on trying to change people's orientation.

One dear friend who spent 9 years in these programs sent me the attached video. It's a parody of a promotional video for Exodus International, the most well-known of the ex-gay "ministries." Although it is humorous, it really shows the faulty logic and incomplete scientific backing that these groups generally use to try to "change" people.


Enjoy it. Can't be serious all the time.



Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Myopia

No, I'm not physically nearsighted. Instead, I'm talking about my own tendency to become focused on all the "stuff" going on in life.

Sometimes I feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied, but when I stop to analyze the feeling and wonder what is creating such discontent in my life, I am at a loss. Over and over again, I agonize about my purpose and if I'm fulfilling it and what I should be doing to fulfill it.

How do I reconcile this with my (rather hum-drum) everyday life? These thoughts go on and on.

But tonight, my thoughts have followed a different path than what they normally do when contemplating the relevance of my own existence. I realized that my "life" is my existence. The thing that I'm seeking for I already have, and it is found in the presence of every day.

I am so often wrapped up in the drama of myself, that I fail to experience the life that is produced in and through me...that is me. This is the feeling that leaves me wondering if I've missed out on life. I have not missed life, because life is what is. I have missed the opportunity to recognize it as it's occurring.

But my life is blessed. All life is blessed. My life is full and rich and bountiful. Only my myopia keeps me from recognizing this truth every day!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Matter Of Life and Death

I read something that startled me today. Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.

I had to really stop and think about this. For whatever reason, life and death are always paired. Yet gestation and death are the natural regenerative processes that life goes through in all its forms, but they are not life. Death is not a cessation of life but a rebirth of it in new form.

*********
Whenever any kind of deep loss occurs in your life--such as loss of possessions, your home, a close relationship; or loss of your reputation, job or physical abilities--something inside you dies. You feel diminished in your sense of who you are. There may also be a certain disorientation. "Without this...who am I?"

When a form that you had unconsciously identified with as part of yourself leaves you or dissolves, that can be extremely painful. It leaves a hole, so to speak, in the fabric of your existence.

When this happens, don't deny or ignore the pain or the sadness that you feel. Accept that it is there. Beware of your mind's tendency to construct a story around that loss in which you are assigned the role of victim. Fear, anger, resentment, or self-pity are the emotions that go with that role. Then become aware of what lies behind those emotions as well as behind the mind-made story: that hole, that empty space. Can you face and accept that strange sense of emptiness? If you do, you may find that it is no longer a fearful place. You may be surprised to find peace emanating from it.

Whenever death occurs, whenever a life form dissolves, God, the formless and unmanifested, shines through the opening left by the dissolving form. That is why the most sacred thing in life is death. That is why the peace of God can come to you through the contemplation and acceptance of death.
selection and quote from Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why Am I Afraid to Live?

Why is it that I fear the only thing I truly desire--my own happiness? What causes me to create my dreams and then fear their achievement so much that I'm willing to sit by as my mind deconstructs them with thoughts of inadequacies and failures that have yet to occur?

A friend said something tonight that struck me. He said, "It's the easiest way...to stand still."

I disagreed with him. Standing still is not the easiest way. It's not even the most comfortable. But it is the most comforting. Standing still allows me to play victim (to other people or to circumstances). Standing still lets me feel pitiful and therefore important (to myself at least).

The truth is momentum is the easiest way of life. Living--as an action verb--is the most comfortable way to be. Yet so few of us practice living. Most of us are so conditioned to be comforted with our own dream-dashing, that we fail to live the life we were meant to live.

What I am realizing:

We fear to live the life we dream, so we fail to live the life that is more than we can dream.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

How Does God Speak?

Jeanine is a friend of this blog and she recently sent me a great idea from another blog that does a "Friday Five" list.

I've been going through the wringer on a personal level over the past few weeks and so the list that was posted really seemed apropos.

Sometimes we know God is out there, but we just can't feel His touch. So I want to take a moment to focus on and remember the ways in which God has spoken and does speak to me.

How has God revealed Himself to you in...

A Book:

Obviously, He has revealed Himself through the Bible. This is probably one of the most powerful ways God speaks to me, because I love to read.

But I remember a few years ago, before I came out to myself, I was driving through town and saw a huge sign: BOOK CLOSEOUT

I swerved across traffic, veering into the parking lot and came to a stop with squealing tires. I browsed the entire sale walking around the table marked "Christian" at the end of my shopping. I walked around it twice to make sure I didn't miss anything and that's when it happened.

I saw a bright green book. It seemed to jump off the shelf at me as its title caught my attention. Uncommon Calling. It was the story of a gay Christian fighting for ordination in the 1980's in a mainline denomination.

I was terrified to buy that book, because it was labeled "gay," and I hadn't even labeled myself that yet. But I knew that I needed to read that book. I took it home and devoured it. That was one step on this fantastic journey toward authenticity and communion where God used a book to speak to me very clearly.

A Film:
There are many over the years, but the one that profoundly touches me every time is The Passion of the Christ.

When I first went to see it, I had no preconceptions. I simply prayed, "Lord, speak to me."

It was graphic and overwhelming as anyone who's seen it can tell you. At one point, I fought to keep my eyes on the screen. Tears were pouring over my cheeks and I wanted to look away. But I couldn't.

In that moment during the scene where Jesus is being whipped, there is a flashback shot to the last supper. Jesus is holding the bread and breaks it "this is my body which was broken for you."

I wept. My salvation was real again. I've not been the same since.

A Song:
I am a musician, so these examples are also plentiful. One of my favorites within the last year is sung by India Arie called There's Hope.


"It's about the size of the faith in your heart."

A Person: (not going to post a pic for this one...as it's an anonymous blog!)
God has used so many people in my life to speak His grace and love to me. The one that jumps out is the first person I ever came out to. She is a dear friend who'd been a minister of a United Church of Christ congregation. We met however through a mutual employer.

When I came out to myself, she was the first one I told. I remember it so vividly. We were sitting at lunch. We caught up on all the things going on in our lives. And I just decided to tell her.

My head was full of internalized homophobia still. I was fearful of what people would say and think. I thought everyone looked on the gay community and being gay like I did according to how I'd been taught.

When I finally said those words, she looked me straight in the eyes, reached across the table and put her hand on mine and said, "that's so wonderful".

For another hour or two we sat there and God ministered healing and peace to my heart through her words. I left there a changed man.

I have been able to take the advice she gave me on that Sunday afternoon long ago and use it to minister to others who are in the same boat as I am. And in a sense, that's the reason for this whole blog...to minister.

Nature:

I love the ocean and the beach. This is the place in nature where I feel most connected to God.

I remember a few years ago, I was in the Caribbean on a small island. I had traveled there alone. I had no phone, no TV, and no internet. There were a few shops on the island, but no stores or shopping malls. I knew no one, and I was there for four days.

One of the evenings, I traveled to a secluded beach and decided to watch the sun setting. I drove down to the water and climbed up on a large boulder. I watched the tide come in from my perch about 10 feet off the water. As it rolled in, I noticed small snails that would wash up and cling to the rock face.

As I watched the sun dipping toward the water on the horizon, I realized that just as I was watching the snails on the rock, God was watching me.

Giving Grace

I just finished Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. I often read three to five books all at the same time, so I'd been working on this one for several weeks. Today as I finished it, I was impacted by the message of grace that is found in this spiritual revolution that is so simple, yet not easy--so ancient, yet sadly novel to most of contemporary Christianity.

It is this: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love and support the poor.

In order to fulfill this gospel we must first experience grace (through salvation) and then extend grace (through the working out of our salvation). Yet grace is difficult. It takes courage to lay down one's own life and desires.

But the more I experience grace the more compelled I am by it and the more constrained I am to live with grace toward all men.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch





like me...























....like me





















...or me


















....or me





















and even me...














That's the thing about grace--there are no criteria to obtain it.

Grace is the only true gift that we can ever accept, and it is the only true gift that we can ever give. Without grace, we could not receive love. Without grace, we could not give love.

There truly is no other word for grace....but amazing.

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never - I promise - regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.
Luke 6:35-36 (the Message)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Surprise of Suffering

There is a surprise of suffering in love.

I am learning to love. I am learning what true love is and what it means to love every day. The more I learn of Love, the more I am drawn to it as the fundamental state of my being as a human being.

But I realize that the "struggle" of love comes from the conditioning that I have absorbed for so many years--from infancy--to do and be what others expect of me, and not do what and be who I was created to be.

So I have been surprised with suffering. It's nice. And alliterated. But what do I mean by this?

I was surprised to realize that there is no distance of space or time in love. There is no separation really. And it's perhaps a bit metaphysical or spiritual for some, but I have found it to be the truth.

The suffering of the one I love grips my heart and I feel it deep in my soul. Even though the suffering may not be my own and even though I know that each of us is responsible for his or her own pain and suffering, I feel the pain my loved one feels.

Perhaps I am finally beginning to understand the words I memorized so easily and thoughtlessly as a child. Perhaps I finally understand the meaning of "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sweet Surrender

(Listen to the words of this song as you read this post and allow them to minister to your heart. See if you too, don't find comfort and courage in the idea of surrender.)

Commitment for me has always come from the idea of "leave and cleave" that is derived from the Scriptures. Embedded in the context of the idea of commitment is the idea of holding on--of clasping the object of love.

But I have seen the love of Christ expressed recently in my life, and it has challenged what I have always believed of commitment.

It seems that the commitment most of us believe in is the selfish idea where "I" commit my life to "you." Why do I say selfish when it seems that the exact opposite is true? Because, by 'committing' to you in the traditional sense of the idea, I am trusting you to hold me and to care for me and to nurture me.

I have realized that within the context of relationship, only Christ can fill this role. It is true that He often uses those closest to us to demonstrate His love, but He alone fills the role of lover, friend and Lord. When we depend on one another and need each other to fill His role, we fail each other and ourselves. To the extent that I love you as Christ loves you, I am able to be His vessel for service in your life.

The greatest sign of commitment in the Garden of Gethsemane was when Christ prayed a prayer of surrender, "Nevertheless, not my will..."

But loving means letting go. Letting go of my hopes for who you are to me and who you will become to me. Letting go of my desires for future happiness. Loving means trusting, and that's scary.

We are conditioned to possess one another. "Normal" relationship means that you are my girlfriend or my boyfriend. Commitment is not so much about "cleaving" to you, but it is about resigning my claim to you. It is about trusting Christ to be your comforter and caregiver at every stage of relationship. And that is difficult.

But I am finding strength and comfort in surrender. I am learning courage at the hand of dependence. And when all is said and done, there is one truth. Christ alone is Lord. And that's enough. I trust.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Questions Are Many, Answers But a Few.

I have a very distinct need for uncertainty. However, I also feel the tug between uncertainty and the desire to know what I want.

I don't know whether this conflict is due to living in the closet for so many years or if it's just a common condition to all of mankind. I have a suspicion that it is more of the latter than the former.

In some areas of life, I am confident and I know exactly what I want. In others, I don't know what I want. Or I know what I want, but I second-guess my desires. It really is a fear of what others think, or what I think they think. Why is it so important? Why do I fear so much the disapproval of other people who are no more enlightened than I am?

How can I bring the same level of authenticity to the uncertain areas of my life as I have in the areas over which I exercise complete clarity and peace?

Perhaps it's taking my own advice that awareness is the first step. Perhaps asking these questions begins the process. And perhaps the next step is loving myself enough to say, "the choices I make based on the desires that I have are good for me despite what anyone thinks."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Embracing Grace

I use Google Reader to keep up with several blogs that I like to read. One of the ones that I've found interesting is Eugene's blog entitled Paradoxy. What a great title for a blog describing the growth it takes to reconcile one's sexuality and Christian faith.

Several of his recent posts are pertinent to the conversation I've been having on (and off) this blog. In the post entitled Total Surrender, he talks about legalism in the context of normal human nature.

This is a fascinating idea, because I just finished reading the biography of Jay Bakker (son of Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker), Son of a Preacher Man. In it, he describes what happened to his parents in the 1980's. What struck me, though, was the way that his dad's poor choices seemed to be "preyed upon" by other up- and-coming preachers, who turned out to be the bulwark of the Christian Right, the Moral Majority and modern evangelicalism.

Many of these men, and pastors across the country who took their cues from them, openly ridiculed and mocked the Bakkers during their time of greatest personal suffering (both personal and private). They used their pulpits as literal bully-pulpits, instead of pronouncing the amazing grace of God--God our Father and Redeemer!

It's interesting to see the inherent need we humans have for creating "rules, boundaries, and concrete structure." Eugene goes on to point out that this tendency extends to an attempt to manipulate others to comply and follow the rules.

In his book, Jay tells about the weight of this manipulation by godly, well-intentioned people, after he began his return to God. Attempting to lay aside the bitterness and hatred that he'd harbored all through his teenaged years, he found that when he came back to the church as a wounded and hurting spirit, he still could not "measure up" under the expectations of others.

But then he experienced God's grace! Jay says that before that time it had been "nothing more than a song." Grace truly is amazing.

Yet it's a fearful thing. It requires complete trust--the kind of trust that is the only way-maker for the true lordship of Christ in a believer's life.

But how do we switch from the way we've been taught to live, and embrace God's grace? That is the question Eugene addresses in the subsequent post called, Freedom in Practice. If grace is Christ's example, how do we follow it in "real life," especially when most everyone who's maintaining the spiritual status quo will probably separate themselves from us?

You see, when you grow in grace, it makes me uncomfortable, because you are alive and you are growing. I am made aware of my lack of growth, and I will respond one of two ways: either I will embrace your growth, become your cheerleader and will begin a revival in my own soul. Or, I will despise your growth because I am embarrassed of my own shortcoming, I will seek for a way to slow or stop your growth; and when that fails, I will alienate you.

But grace is the "gift of God." It's the way of salvation ("by grace you are saved through faith"). Grace is "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us".

Sometimes we forget. But grace is the gift. We either embrace it or we can reject it. We either embrace His love and offer it to others, or we withhold it from them because we cannot receive it ourselves.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Rules! Rules! Rules!

As I've shared on this blog, I've wrestled a bit with the balance between holiness and its practical application in everyday life--specifically when it comes to the subject of sex.

Raising the Questions
When I came out, for the first time, I realized that I needed to really think about what I believed about sex. What were my convictions? What would be my guidelines?

How do I set boundaries? Are they important? Why? For most around me, these questions are kin to heresy. GASP How can you question boundaries when it comes to sex? The prevailing thought seemed to be "stay away...far, far away!" And that is just how I'd been raised as a child of conservative evangelicalism.

For the first time in my life, I needed more. I had to have a better understanding. Because I wanted to know, "What does God think?" and "What does God expect from me?"

As I've walked this road over the past 2 years or so, I've made some decisions that I wish I had made differently. I've made others for which I'm thankful. But as I continue to weigh these tough ideas, I am struck by the balance of sin versus grace. The Apostle Paul seemed to be thinking of this same idea when he said, "Should I sin that grace might abound?" (loose paraphrase of KJV)

"God forbid." In other words, "absolutely not!"

Yet grace is a "many-splendored" thing. So I ask myself, Why do I feel compelled to create rules for myself? Why do I need definite "black and white", "yes or no" rules?

What Does God Expect?
An honest heart more than an outward show.

Then Samuel said, Do you think all God wants are sacrifices - empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production. (I Samuel 15:22 The Message)



A just, merciful, humble and loving heart.

But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously - take God seriously. (Micah 6:8 The Message)



Pursuit of His heart.

And loving him with all passion and intelligence and energy, and loving others as well as you love yourself. Why, that's better than all offerings and sacrifices put together!" When Jesus realized how insightful he was, he said, "You're almost there, right on the border of God's kingdom." After that, no one else dared ask a question. (Mark 12:33-34 The Message)



But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33 KJV)



So why am I compelled to create rules, measures and judgements of my holiness? I've come to the conclusion that it's not for God's sake, but for my own. And perhaps that is the most sinful thing of all.

For it is really my selfish and self-centered attempts to do something for God. God does not require that I do something for Him, but that I become something for His glory. When I am seeking to do something for God, the only result is my own glorification (i.e. "Look what I have done. Look at how 'holy' I am!").

Holiness is something I am, not something I do. It is not just having a "form" of godliness without the power of God's Spirit within me, but it is becoming Christlike through the work of God's Holy Spirit.

If I am struggling to become Christlike, it is because I am struggling, not God.